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Monday, August 8, 2016

Cantillate

Musical Instrument Finger Positions, Fingerboard And Keyboard Roadmaps, Fingering Charts And Diagrams

In exploiting the musical score as a source of data for a wide range of instrument model configurations and animations, we can expect encounter some serious challenges relating to the limitations of existing technologies.

Chief among these, perhaps is that of instrument fingerings. These are dependent on instrument type and configuration, it's key or tuning, stylistic or music 'tension' preferences, or simply the quality of timbre over the practicalities of speed. In effect, every instrumentalist has his or her own fingering preferences. Hence, an exchange file format such as MusicXML might be expected to support any number of fingering sets. Not so.

Currently, regardless of music exchange format (of which there are many), none provide support for more than one (and, frustratingly, 'baked-in' or hard-coded) set of fingerings. This is a 1:1 or one-to-one relationship, where it should very clearly be 1:n, or one-to-many.

Moreover, with the means (as with the visualization platform in focus here) to aggregate several voices into one instrument data flow, a small range of fingering opiomizations may be required. There are several approaches to these - all of which for the meantime perhaps best placed under user control.

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Instrument Visualisation: Fingering Controls

Score Playback Selection at a Point in Time. #VisualFutureOfMusic #WorldMusicInstrumentsAndTheory
Score Selection at a Point in Time

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Score Handling

Score handling will ultimately allow not only the selection of one or more voices, but their aggregation, or bundling as a vertical section, for display on any of possibly several different instrument finger- or keyboards.

Moreover, it will be possible to mute, hide and transpose individual voices, using simple selections from items stored in the browser.

Instrument Layout Diversity

Even restricting ourselves to just one of the many instrument family subgroups - such as free reed instruments, the fingering possibilities can seem limitless.

In practice, however, even these can be broken down into sub-groupings or types by (for example) fingerboard layout: whether diatonic (Club, Irish, Musette, Ländler), chromatic, (B- or C-system, bayan), piano accordion, bandoneon or one of the many types of concertina (English, Anglo, Duet, Chemnitzer etc).

   
Three Different Concertina Layouts


Reuse considerations will feature prominently in building the layered, graphical hierarchies behind these layouts. As with abstract theory matrices and lattices, it is also important to consider the ease with which nodes and intervals on the various fingering axes can be interrogated and graphically displayed.
Nevertheless, it is my feeling that for each configuration, a clear and simple solution can be found for the issue of finger positions, and that -if not human- then artificial intelligence will help in finding optimizations for various styles of play.

Instrument Modeling: Problem Simplification

Our main concerns are
  • the fundamental keyboard (hardware) layout and tuning
  • musical range in terms of number and layout of keys or other finger positions in each row
  • hand span / reach
  • user's musical priority (speed, convenience, comfort, timbre or tone, and where appropriate their clustering)
  • modal intervals and fingering hotspots (scales)
  • color consistency
Bouzouk Tuning Menu. #VisualFutureOfMusic #WorldMusicInstrumentsAndTheory
Bouzouk Tuning Menu
By the way, given the variety of combinations to be found out in the real world, it is useful for modeling purposes to treat the melody and bass sides of accordions as discrete entities. This is an example of an instrument with potentially two different configurations acting in unison - and one of my favourite challenges :-)

Everything else is fingering, and can be easily -if at times (due to user's preferences) a little tediously- mapped.

How are Fingering Roadmaps ..er.. Mapped?

Guitar Tuning Subsets (Ukelele, Mandola, Violin) #VisualFutureOfMusic #WorldMusicInstrumentsAndTheory
Guitar Tuning Subsets (Ukelele, Mandola, Violin)
From a strategic point of view, there are degrees of sophistication in achieving configurable fingerings across a variety of instrument forms.

At the simplest level, we could, for example, just use subsets of instrument layouts having a wide tonal range. From the guitar, for example, we could take the tuning subsets associated with other common instruments such as ukelele, madola, banjo, violin or mandolin.

More sophisticated configuration strategies inevitably resort to detailed fingering data with the following goals:

  • decoupling tunings from specific instrument layouts.
  • Tuning subset reuse
  • Each tuning subset is guaranteed unique
  • the whole forms a tuning continuum data tree.

Documenting these here and now would drive a truck through my time planning, so the details will have to wait for a future update.

Display Using Heat Map
Coming back to layout, for simple, repeating instruments such lutes or the piano, simple arrays would suffice.

There are plenty of approaches to achieving layouts for more complex instruments. For a majority of cases, however, the Heat Map, a more or less standard data visualisation library feature, is fine.

For trickier layouts, there is ample scope for case-by-case community involvement.

On-The-Fly Pitch Adjustments

With several voices, however, the question arises of how to handle widely differing pitch, and especially the thorny question of recommended fingerings. Moreover, simple folk instruments are sometimes limited in range, or the notes native to the score too far apart to be fingered.

Fingerings can be optimised (anyone up for artificial intelligence or machine learning?), but are also an important aspect of style. This suggests that -whatever means are used to find recommended fingerings- ultimately there should always be freedom to override.

In these cases, traditional musicians (and especially those who learn by ear, where there are perhaps fewer playing taboos) use substitution:
  • Pitch Adjustment Controls. #VisualFutureOfMusic #WorldMusicInstrumentsAndTheory
    Pitch Adjustment Controls
    pitch 'octavisation', whereby a note or tone is hiked as many octaves up or down as are necessary to bring the note into playing (or rather 'playable') range
  • substitution of another, harmonically compatible note
  • removal of effectively duplicate but octave-separated (enharmonic) notes
  • dropping a note entirely

The screenshot here is of an first cut at these screen controls (this whole configuration interface is being revamped to make it more intuitive and better integrated with the instrument layout. More on that in a later post).

The screenshot also shows (in blue) the fingering history, that is to say where earlier fingering positions were found. Though early days, this is of potential help in devising practise exercises.


Keywords



online music learning,
online music lessons
distance music learning,
distance music lessons
remote music lessons,
remote music learning
p2p music lessons,
p2p music learning
music visualisation
music visualization
musical instrument models
interactive music instrument models
music theory tools
musical theory
p2p music interworking
p2p musical interworking
comparative musicology
ethnomusicology
world music
international music
folk music
traditional music
P2P musical interworking,
Peer-to-peer musical interworking
WebGL, Web3D,
WebVR, WebAR
Virtual Reality,
Augmented or Mixed Reality
Artificial Intelligence,
Machine Learning
Scalar Vector Graphics,
SVG
3D Cascading Style Sheets,
CSS3D
X3Dom,
XML3D


Comments, questions and (especially) critique welcome.